Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Beer and More

Money Matters

Your Health & Happiness:  Foreigners in Thai hospitals - the pleasure and the pain

By Noel Bruyns

Foreigners who fall ill and are admitted to hospitals in Thailand may experience a certain amount of trepidation. Thai nurses and doctors, in turn, also often struggle with the culture shock of treating patients from overseas.

That is why Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital (BPH) turned to the Thai-German Institute (TGI) based in Pattaya to ask for help in dealing with and understanding German - and other foreign - patients better.

The result was a seminar for medical staff conducted at the hospital by Dr Eberhard Stockmann, director of the medical department of Siemens in Erlangen, Germany on June 30. He also travels around the world where Siemens employees are working to liaise with clinics.

Among other topics, Dr Stockman explained the German health system, Siemens’ medical care for people who are sent abroad and what kind of treatment Germans expect.

“There is no significant difference in the technological knowledge between Thai and German doctors,” he said, referring to the quality of treatment at international hospitals in Thailand.

“In fact, many people abroad come to Asian countries for check-ups and treatment, because the quality of treatment is the same as in their home country, but much cheaper - and they can throw in a week’s holiday as well,” he noted.

A significant difference that Dr Stockmann pointed out for the BPH medical staff’s attention is that in many European countries, ambulances that are sent out on emergency calls are not only fully equipped but also include a doctor on board. “This is so that you don’t have to wait until the patient is brought back to the hospital to be treated in urgent cases.”

TGI expert for Occupational Health, Safety and Environment Karsten Deckert, speaking of his “cross-cultural experience in receiving medical treatment as a German with a Thai passport”, observed that hospitals and medical staff in Thailand are more customer-orientated.

“Hospital rooms are like hotels where spouses can stay in private wards, if required. This would be impossible in German hospitals.”

TGI German director Walter Kretschmar also remarked on the personal care, warmth and “jai” (heart) in Thai hospitals “which we miss in Germany”.

However, he pointed out personal experiences that highlighted differences in approach. Going to a Chonburi hospital with ear ache, the doctor simply gave him an assortment of pills without explaining the ailment or the medication.

“I didn’t take the tablets because I didn’t trust the treatment,” he confessed. “Back home, patients want to know exactly what is wrong with them, and detailed information about the medication.”

When he was TGI safety officer, he asked his secretary to buy a first-aid kit for the office.

“She came back with a pile of pills. The Thai understanding of first-aid is culturally different. I had to go out myself to buy items that included plasters, scissors and a fridge - not for the milk or cake for the office - but to put the first-aid items in it” so the tropical heat would not ruin them, he explained. “They thought I was a crazy guy,” he quipped.

Kretschmar congratulated international and urban hospitals in Thailand on their quality, but said he had experienced hospitals in more remote areas that were “shocking and unhygienic”.

However, he also remarked on the typical positive attribute of Thais. “Your smile is very valuable, psychologically, for the healing process,” he said.

* TGI describes itself as the largest and most advanced independent training center for industrial technologies in Thailand.

“With German-backed quality principles, state-of-the-art equipment and highly-trained staff, we offer a real opportunity for Thailand’s technicians and engineers to improve their qualifications and keep up-to-date with the most advanced techniques and technologies,” the TGI website says.


The Doctor's Consultation: The hewers of stone and the drawers of water

by Dr. Iain Corness

In the medical business, Urologists are sometimes called the hewers of stone and drawers of water, because much of their work deals with kidney stones and assisting men to be able to pass water adequately. We men do suffer at times; it’s not only the ladies who have ‘specific’ problems!

Your urinary system is a remarkable collection of organs, beginning with the kidney, the “super filter”. The kidney filters the blood and allows the important stuff like blood cells and nutrients to continue waltzing around your circulation, but taking out the nasties, and at the same time helping balance the acidity/alkalinity of the body. Clever little organs, the kidneys!

To keep your kidneys in top shape does not require special kidney exercises, you will be pleased to know. In fact, there is nothing you can do ‘physically’ to make the kidneys perform, but fortunately there are some things you can do to keep them in top condition.

The first is to drink plenty of water every day. And by ‘water’, I mean the plain and simple H2O, not the stuff that has been mixed with hops, distilled with grain or left to age in oak casks. Making the kidneys exercise, to filter and regulate the circulating blood volume, is simply carried out by drinking several litres of water every day. Yes, it is that easy. On your desk at work keep a glass of cold water beside you and empty it every 30 minutes.

The advantages you get from this are enormous. First off, you have immediately lowered the chances of forming kidney stones, a potentially dangerous (and painful) condition. Being a card carrying coward, I have always preferred the drinking water option to the lying in bed groaning with pain alternative. In fact, around 15 percent of people will experience stones in their lifetime (especially in the hot climates) and men outnumber women between two to three times. We also know that if you do not change your lifestyle, you are very likely to develop another stone within two years after the first episode. We men do suffer at times, it’s not only the ladies who have ‘specific’ problems!

The kidneys drain to the bladder by two tubes called Ureters. These do not do much, other than connect the kidney to the collecting vessel (bladder). However, if a piece of stone gets stuck, you will soon know about it. Renal colic sorts out the men from the boys! Ultimate pain!

From the bladder, the urine gets introduced to the outside world by another tube called the Urethra. This is short in ladies and is the reason that women get Cystitis (bladder infections). It is longer in the men folk, allowing us to stand up to pee and become obsessed with how long or short it really is.

However, we chaps have another problem in that region, as far as getting the urine from the bladder to the far wall of the urinal. This is called the Prostate, and it encircles the Urethra and when enlarged, closes down the internal diameter of the pee tube. This makes it difficult to pass water and you dribble on your shoes. The prostate can also become cancerous, an even less pleasant state of affairs. We men do suffer at times, it’s not only the ladies who have ‘specific’ problems!

Yes, you can have a check-up for this area too. Just ask to see the hewers of stone and drawers of water!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I read in the Chiangmai Mail that the bar girls are worrying about the health of the local buffaloes, because if they are all replaced by tractors then the pleading “buffalo sick, send money” won’t work any more. I have got a letter asking for money to pay vet bills for a Thai girl’s family buffalo. Is this really true? Are they that devious?
Buffalo Bill

Dear Buffalo Bill,
I could have answered your letter with just one word - Yes! However, like all begging attempts, it is up to you what you do. When you go across the pedestrian footbridges in Bangkok, there will be somebody, usually with a rented baby at the breast or an obvious physical deformity, with a begging cup at each stairwell. You can give, or keep your money firmly in your pocket. Likewise the begging letters, which all have a fairly common source, in fact there is a book published for bar girls to learn English, that has a basic pro-forma letter of the type “Dear Blank (fill in name of sucker, sorry, boyfriend), I miss you so much. Unfortunately I have to tell you that I will have to go back to working in the bar because my mother/brother/father/baby/buffalo (delete whichever are inappropriate) is sick. If you could send $$$$$ (fill in the amount wanted) then I could just stay here in our flat and wait for you. Life is not the same without you (or without your wallet). Your loving girlfriend (Sai, Sim, Toy, A, Bee, Dee, Nud, Nid - delete whichever is inappropriate). Yes Buffalo Bill, I think you should keep your money in the bank at Wounded Knee and wait for the Cavalry. The buffalo will look after itself. You don’t need to.
Dear Hillary,
My computer is behaving worse than any woman I have ever met. It can be all sweetness and light one day, and just as suddenly change and become impossible to work with. It will work sometimes, and for no apparent reason just change its mind and stop working. The screen can be a lovely sunny sky colour and in the blink of an eye it turns into a horrible deep storm blue. Have I just got a bitch of a bug, or do you think this is some female plot? Before I jump on the damn box of tricks, or punch the screen’s lights out, have you any suggestions as to what I should do? I’ve had everyone look at it, but nobody seems to know how to make it behave. I’m at my wits end.
Computer Charlie

Dear Computer Charlie,
What do you think Hillary is? A computer repairman? I mend broken hearts or give advice to the lovelorn, Petal. I don’t mend computers. I hate computers as much as you do. If the car companies sold cars that would stop for no reason, crash despite all your good efforts, and race off and do illegal things behind your back, they would be out of business in no time. Yet somehow the boss of the (guaranteed to fail) operating systems ends up as the richest man on the planet. Charlie, there is no justice in the world, or otherwise Hillary would be sitting sunning herself around a six star swimming pool, while sipping French champagne and nibbling Belgian chocolates surrounded by attentive waiters. However, I do think you should do something about that temper of yours. You can’t go round threatening to punch people’s lights out, just because they won’t work the way you want them too!
Dear Hillary,
I have been holidaying here in Thailand for three months and will be returning to my country for around four months, before coming back. I am a single male and have formed a steady relationship with a young woman here. She has a regular job and is not employed in the entertainment industry, if I can use so loose a term. I would like to give her something to remind her of me while I am away. Have you any suggestions on what I should get for a young Thai lady in her late twenties? We have not been living together and up till now it is a real ‘friend’ situation, though I am looking to make this into something more when I return.
Regular guy Ron

Dear Regular guy Ron,
First, I am very happy that you want to give your lady friend a gift to be a token of your feelings for her while you are off overseas. That is very sweet and thoughtful of you, Petal. The best kind of present is one that she would use every day, and when using it, this would bring you to mind. Have you thought of a nice leather money purse/wallet, complete with a photo of you (and her) inside? This is something that she would use every day, and would hopefully bring a smile to her face each time. However, it is probably more important for you to tell her what you have told me, where you say that you are looking at making the relationship “something more” when you return. Good communication is the most important factor in all relationships.


Camera Class: How to make the subject jump off the print

by Harry Flashman

What is the most commonly photographed subject? No, it is neither elephants nor local politicians, but is most likely a person you know. Be that wife, parents, children or country cousins, the main subject for the majority of amateur photographers is people. Take a look at your photo albums if you don’t believe me. For many of these photos they are of the type, Mum at the zoo or Auntie Mame at the beach, or Uncle Walter in Chiang Mai.

What you have to consider is “why” you are recording this 1/60th of a second in time for posterity. When you realize “why” - your shots will improve.

It is simple really - in actual fact, you are recording a time “when” your relative was “in” a particular place. Consequently, you have two important items to show in the shot - “who” and “where”.

Take “where” first. This is the background to the shot, and in many ways a most important item. While you may know that the shot was taken in Chiang Mai, nobody else does, and certainly not in a few years time, unless there is something in the photograph that relates to the location.

So rule number one is to make the background “specific” for the location. Mum with a giraffe probably does mean a zoo somewhere, but a sign always helps to pinpoint the location. Likewise with Uncle Walter in Chiang Mai. Get somewhere in the city that either says Chiang Mai, or use some local landmark that is unmistakable, like the moat in Chiang Mai or the bay in Pattaya. Look at this week’s photo with Pattaya Bay giving the location for the snapshot.

Now remember that after you have found a good background location, you have to stick a person in it too, and the concept here is not to make the subject (Mum, Auntie Mame, Uncle Walter) part of the background. You have to well and truly separate the two. The subject is the “hero”, so bring the subject up close. Rule number two is to bring the subject away from the background, to make sure the subject is the principal item of interest.

What you do now is to juggle the two items around so that you get the best shot possible. Try taking one shot where the subject is central, and the background extends on both sides. The next two shots should be taken with the subject 1/3rd in from the left border for one and similar placement in from the right border of the shot for the second photo (back to the Rule of Thirds).

The thirds tip is to look at the background before you pop the shutter button. This requires you to practice looking through the viewfinder with the critical eye. It means that you look beyond the breathtakingly beautiful model posed before your lens and stretch your focus through to the background. Now look for contrasts.

This simply means to have a light background if the person you are shooting has dark hair, and the reverse for those with blonde or white hair. Now to get this may require you to move the model, move yourself or move the location again. This is worthwhile. No matter how good the shot looks as you try so diligently to get pinpoint focus on your subject - if there is no contrast between subject and background you will be disappointed in the final photograph. The person’s hair will disappear into the background. This is especially so when photographing the very dark haired people of Thailand. Just look at some of the social page photographs in this issue of the Mail and you will see just what I mean.

Probably the last item to consider is colour. When all else fails, or is impossible, position your subject against a contrasting coloured background. A yellow dress in front of a red door, for example, will always stand out. Blue and white are also good contrasts. And of course, never forget black and white!


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

Last issue, we looked briefly at the almost daily problem with internet connections to the outside world. So what is actually going on and what can we do about it?

Obviously if you cannot connect or your web page hangs, a download or upload stops in the middle, something has happened. We can even see if the tiny little dialup monitor in your system tray, kindly provided by Microsoft, stops winking. But there have to be more accurate methods of checking what’s happening.

The first problem is to be able to detect when the connection drops out. I am sure none of us sit there watching the connection monitor all day. We need an audio or visual signal of some kind to alert us if the connection drops out. Low bandwidth internet radio is a simple answer. If the music stops, the internet connection has stopped for some reason. Winamp gets 4 stars because you can select the bandwidth for radio stations and has a simple and easy interface.

The second problem is to be able to monitor what is actually happening between our computer and a destination. For example, what happens when we connect to www.TheHostServer.com in the USA.

There are many simple and not so simple net monitor applications and the best of the best is 3D Trace. It’s free and gives a very effective 3D display that cleverly shows how many jumps (servers), who, where they are and how long it took. The result visually looks like a 3D Graph and we can see straight away whether the internet is working or not working. Go to http://www.hlembke.de/prod/3dtraceroute/ download now and start using it. Simple to install and has some very useful tools (synchronise PC time, WHOIS, DNS lookup and so on) and is the only application I have ever given a 5 Star rating for.

While 3D Trace is very, very good, you can only monitor one destination at a time. To monitor several destinations at a time, such as watch and compare your ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) Chiang Mai gateway, track the Bangkok Gateway and even monitor your own intra-net (between your computer and a server) you need a different application. There is another simple product called Ping Monitor and it’s also free and available from www.express-soft.com/pingmon/ and this gets 3.0 stars and needs more advanced knowledge to run.

These applications make it very simple to monitor what’s happening and know that something is simply not correct when you telephone Customer Support and they claim nothing is wrong.

What choices do we have to connect anyway? The answer is broken down into groups of connection options to make it easy to compare options.

Dial-Up Modem: There are plenty of offerings here, but all suffer from the same antique telephone system that still uses 50-year-old telephone lines and analogue telephone exchanges. More of an issue outside the major city areas, the rest of us have a plethora of choice and decisions we can make.

While your PC may be reporting a connection of 44-48K (the connection speed), and modern computers usually have the latest 56K modems, I guarantee the reality is significantly less as signal strength is degraded by poor line quality and so on.

Web Connection Kits vary widely but two examples include the Inet Access Kit, 500 baht (as low as 5 baht per hour after office hours) and CSLoxinfo’s Biz Kit 30 providing 30hrs for 720 baht. Don’t forget that most ISP’s here and overseas use a ratio of 9:1 when they set up modems for users to connect through. That’s why at peak times, you only get online after dialling a few times. For every 9 of you, there’s only 1 modem.

The other thing people constantly complain about is, after spending 30 mns getting on line, the connection hangs after 10 seconds. This is usually caused because you connected to a faulty modem or this could also be caused by Thai Internet connections to the outside world. Dial-up modem gets a 2.5 star rating (because the infrastructure is so old). I am amazed how many of us still rely on it.

Tip: Those of you living outside the city area should consider slowing your modem connection speed to 28K or 33K. Believe me it works and I will explain why another time.

In the next issue find out about your options and see if there’s a solution for you. Are there any reliable ISPs and is one better than another?

If you have any tips or tricks that you’d like to share, or any questions about your internet or pc experience, contact me: Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.


Beer and More: Drink beer and live longer

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

Beer is a beverage which is produced from water, malt, hops and cultured yeast, the latter to stimulate fermentation. Beer has been known to mankind for 6000 years. Of all the beverages produced worldwide, beer is the one consumed most. In 2000, the world production peaked 1.392 million hectoliters.

Nearly 20 years ago, Prof. A. Piendle of the Technical University Munich emphasized the importance of links between beer consumption and health. His conclusion was, however, largely ignored. Only during the German brewers meeting (Deutscher Brauereitag) in 1997 this connection appeared as a main topic. 
What many scientists had assumed for a long time appears to be supported by facts.

These are hops before they combine with malt and water and become the delicious refreshing drink we call beer.

Beer is not only a wonderful means to quell the thirst. Its content of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and A, D, E and K improves man’s ability to concentrate, stimulates his metabolism, supports the production of red blood cells and influence positively blood circulation and nerve system.

The same can be said of the beer’s mineral content, which also affects muscles and the work of hormones. A glass of beer is the best remedy against nervousness and stress. It is the beer’s content of hops which tranquilizes agitated nerves, while its carbon dioxide and the low content of alcohol help the relaxation of tense muscles.

After comprehensive research, scientists of the Technical University of Munich concluded that life expectancy of men who drink beer in modest quantities is higher than that of abstinent people. They claimed that those consuming no alcohol at all are the ones least satisfied with their state of health.

Let me end with some anonymous words of wisdom that reflect my way of life, “Everybody should believe in something - I believe I’ll have another beer.”


Money Matters:  Storm Watch Update Part 3

Gold and Silver Fundamentals - Based on a an article by Jim Puplava March 2004

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

4) Increased Demand Decreasing Supply

The fundamental supply and demand picture for gold has begun to deteriorate. Demand is rising while supply can no longer keep up with demand. According to Gold Fields Mineral Services demand for gold rose 4% globally last year while supply increased by only 0.4%.

The demand for gold is changing from one of industrial demand to one of investment demand. Higher prices have curtailed jewellery demand while investment demand is flourishing.

As prices have risen, fabrication demand has fallen from 3,782 tonnes to estimated demand of 2,822 tonnes this year. Primary demand has fallen, while investment demand has accelerated; disinvestments of 358 tonnes in 2000 to estimated demand of 565 tonnes this year, a turn around in demand of 923 tonnes.

A summary of the GFMS report for last year reveals the following: Gold demand rose 4% year over year; Producer de-hedging fell by 27%; Jewellery demand fell by 7%; Mine supply increased by less than 1% and Investment demand has risen by 328%. Over 50% of the industry’s 3,000 hedge position has been eliminated over the last three years.

Despite the recent run up in the price of gold there remain two wild cards regarding gold; they are official sector gold sales and the gold derivative book of money centre banks in the U.S. and in Europe. Central banks could try to drive gold prices down by dumping their gold but the Washington Agreement places a limit on these sales. The agreement can be circumvented through gold leasing. However, the question of the amount of gold left to sell in central banks is far less than where it was in 1994.

There are professional estimates that believe that more than half of all the gold of central bank vaults no longer exists. It has been sold or lent out. The other wild card is the derivative position of money centre banks both in gold, currencies, and in interest rate swaps and contracts. The current derivative book of money centre banks has mushroomed to $67 trillion as of the end of the third quarter of last year. The gold derivative position of money centre banks is currently $85 billion - a figure that hangs over a much smaller physical market. Nobody knows for sure which way these contracts swing. It doesn’t matter whether they are long or short, if prices spike up or down in the opposite direction. When you are this leveraged there can be a major problem. If rates rise or the price of gold goes parabolic like silver has done recently, then “Houston we have a problem.”

This could become a major wild card that could send the price of bullion and bullion shares soaring if or when it erupts. The problem is when you are this leveraged, you are always unprepared for the unexpected. History shows us that the fat tails of the bell shaped curve recently have been reoccurring with greater frequency. It is the fat tails and not the belly of the curve that we should be concerned about.

5) Low Negative Interest Rates

The return from short -term interest rate vehicles is no longer high enough to compensate an investor for inflation. The rate of return on short-term Treasury paper is as follows:

3M .94%
6M 1.00%
1Y 1.06%
2Y 1.48%
3Y 1.88%
5Y 2.68%

The rates shown above are far below the current rate of inflation. This means that an investor is actually losing ground on short-term paper investments. The interest rate offered isn’t commensurate with the rate of inflation.

According to the recent PPI report here in the U.S., producer price inflation is running at an annual rate of 7.2%. Commodity price inflation as reflected in the price of the CRB Index is running at an annual rate of 7.7%. The price inflation of food and energy - commodities that we need and consume daily - is running in the double -digits.

It is clear that interest rates this low are clearly signalling the destruction of the value of financial assets. Interest rates this low are a sign of monetary inflation. This is good for gold. Interest rates this low reduces the contango in the futures market which is also good for gold. Low interest rates are gold bullish.

6) Volatile Geopolitical Storms

Pick up the papers, turn on the evening news, or read a news magazine and tell me what you see ... war, assassinations, political coups, bombings, and worldwide terrorist attacks. These are just a small sampling of (that day’s) headlines out of Bloomberg: Israel kills Hamas chief Yassin; Hamas vows revenge; Pakistani army convoy attacked in North-western tribal region; UN envoy calls for calm in City of Heart where 100 people were killed; Bush will ask Congress to increase U.S. troops in Columbia by 75%; Fighting in western Nepal kills 130.

These headlines are not out of the ordinary. The headlines listed above seem to be a daily faire in global news. Terrorism is on the rise and most western governments seem powerless to stop it. Bombings, assassination attempts, low density conflicts (LDCs) are all part of the world we live in. As conflicts increase the rise in the price of gold and silver become a barometer of not only fear, but also a lack of confidence in world leadership.

Rising global budget deficits, an expanding world money supply, resource scarcity and resource wars are all part of today’s present political climate. When fear abounds, gold astounds. The present global conflict is very much reminiscent of the global conflicts, trade wars and depressions of the 1930s. This time around there is far more debt, a larger supply of fiat currency, greater political tensions, and a shortage of natural resources to meet economic and population growth. Today’s modern weapons of war are more lethal. Our modern nuclear weapon systems, as well as our modern financial weapons of mass destruction: derivatives, are capable of wrecking far more havoc, tragedy, and destruction than all of the history of mankind.

Geopolitical storms are joining together with financial storms and are causing greater volatility and political mishap in the world’s financial markets and in the halls of government. It is just one more reason why the price of gold and silver are heading higher. (For further reading of this new political environment see PowerShift: Money, Oil & War).

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Graham Macdonald on [email protected] na tional.com